We catch up to Jim Coughlin after his show at the Improv Olympic that night. Wanda and Shirley need to know whether or not the Olympic will admit under-21s, and Jim is almost certain they won’t. Maybe another show can be scheduled? Or some special arrangement can be worked out with the Olympic? Damn, damn, damn. This will have to be worked out tomorrow with Hal.
I carpool with Lorie, Wendy and Megan back to the hotel and we discover that our rooms are only 2 doors down from each other. Cool! It’s definitely beginning to feel like a big slumber party.
And suddenly I’m the bad girl sneaking in after curfew. It’s one o’clock in the morning. I argue briefly with the keycard, muttering under my breath, and finally get the door to open. (Apparently, the keycard responds to early Anglo-Saxon vernacular.) The room is dark and quiet, except for the whir of the air conditioner. Ah, air conditioning. A luxury by Northwest standards. Joyce and Shelly are asleep. Nikki has reserved another room for just that night, and Kim has agreed to stay with her. I notice that the bizarro curtains are finally shut. Apparently, a thick white curtain was tucked behind the decorative drape. (How many travel-weary fans does it take to close a curtain anyway?) I guess I won’t be required to perform a strip tease. Which is a relief: I’d be the only stripper in town issuing refunds.
I tiptoe around, trying to ready for bed as noiselessly as possible. But of course, in the quiet, every movement sounds so much LOUDER than usual. The toothbrush BANGS on the counter. The contact lenses CLATTER in their case. The toilet lid might as well be a WRECKING BALL. I wind up waking Shelly (D’oh! Bathroom acoustics!), who checks to see who had been hurling Old English epithets at the door-lock and wielding a steel-reinforced toothbrush. She seems relieved to find it’s just me and my own rendition of the Beddy-By Time Philharmonic. She heads back to bed, and in a minute, I trundle off behind her.
Hot and exhausted, I flop onto the bed beside Joyce, who, thankfully, is sound asleep. I don’t even bother to crawl beneath the covers. Letting the air conditioner blow across my legs, I try to fall asleep, worried that I’ll roll over in my sleep and smack Joyce in the face, or god forbid, fart.
It turns out to be a restless night—I’m too excited about the next day’s events--and I finally fall asleep… just as Shelly is preparing to check out the continental breakfast in the hotel’s dining area. Joyce and I are the last to get up. She rolls over and smiles at me: ‘Oh, there you are. You did come back last night.’ We work out shifts for getting ready in the bathroom.
Shelly heads out to meet others that she will ride with that day, Kim and Nikki join Joyce and myself, and we head for the lunch in Chinatown, braving the California highways once again.
Kim navigates, poring over the maps we’ve been given. I’m amazed that traffic is slow-and-go even on a Saturday morning. I feel like Peter in the opening sequence of Office Space, being passed up by the elderly man in the walker.
Ugh. I haven’t yet adjusted to a day schedule, I haven’t eaten, and haven’t had my customary java juice. Caffeine is the one addiction I’ve allowed myself over the years, have managed to kick a few times, only to return to it as a “maintenance” drinker. I’ve avoided the pitfall of needing more and more, but have discovered that one or two cups after I wake up acts like an epinephrine shot, jump-starting my immune system enough to control the allergies I seem to have to….the planet. I know there are better, healthier ways to control allergies, but none of them involve French roast or double shots. ;)
For anyone who doubts that caffeine is a real addiction: caffeine is speed for people who can’t afford jail time or rehab. (“Hey, man, what are you in for?” “Shit. Got busted with a half-pound of Vienna Roast. The Starbucks Cartel is going DOWN!”) But we’re all running on adrenaline, and the anticipation of seeing Hal. Caffeine probably isn’t necessary.
This is the first time Kim and I are meeting him, and Joyce, a veteran of East Coast events, reassures us that he’s warm and down-to-earth and puts you right at ease. I have my doubts. Not about Hal, but about my own ability to not be devastated by those deep brown eyes. :) What can I say? I’m a sucker for dark good looks. Besides, I have one sneaking suspicion about Hal that I’m sure will be proved right.
For the record, I have a history of not being too terribly impressed with good-looking men. Or at least, not letting men off the hook simply because they’re good-looking. This started in junior high. I was forced to sit next to the seventh-grade Lothario in the classes we had together. The teachers knew we hated each other, wouldn’t speak to each other—no need to worry about us disrupting the class. And yes, he was god’s gift—all you had to do was ask him. But I wasn’t buying it and took any chance I could get to let him know it. Any time he gave me attitude, I had a sarcastic retort at the ready. More often than not, he failed to have one for me, and I simply got “the look” in response.
One day, he noticed a book I was reading for fun and very casually asked me about it. We started talking and found out we had things in common—we both wanted to be writers, we both thought the ‘V’ miniseries rocked, but that the new regular series sucked ass--and developed a grudging respect for each other. I found out that underneath the attitude was a real person. His expression lost its arrogance and became more honest. We finally dropped our guards and became friends. During reading class one day, we started talking and laughing about something—don’t remember what. We were disruptive enough that the teacher threatened to separate us. This pretty much set the tone for most of my relationships with men. I wasn’t buying into the sales pitch. They’d have to prove themselves.
Somehow at this moment, sitting at idle on the California freeway, I know this is exactly how it WON’T work with Hal; I’m at serious risk for losing more than a few I.Q. points around him. :)
After a few more miles of slow-and-go, I’m finally able to hit a comfortable cruising speed: “Warp 6, Mr Sulu!” Kim, Joyce and Nikki chime in together: “Wheeeee…..!” We suddenly hit traffic again and I break hard to avoid slamming into the car in front of us… “Wheeeeeee” becomes “AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHHH!”
I can’t help but laugh: “From pure joy to sheer panic in point-five seconds.” A true high-performance vehicle. Heh. Everyone laughs. “Sorry about that,” I tell them.
“That’s okay,” someone says. Everyone’s awake now! :)
Most of our talk throughout the weekend, when it doesn’t revolve around Hal, centers on the common interests we have. We find ourselves quoting movie lines or song lyrics in unison. Four people from various compass points around the U.S., with widely divergent backgrounds, are connecting through pop culture. It strikes me again, as it has over the years, that pop culture has become a kind of lingua franca. You know the references? You get the jokes? You’re in. You’re one of us. Other generations came together through World War II or Woodstock. We come together through Ferris Bueller and Dave Matthews. Pop culture is social lubricant.